In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.
Before you leave your job, be sure to establish a personal connection with each person who has been important to you. But do not stop there. If you will be changing careers, as most MBAs do, you will want to begin building a network beyond your current firm and industry. In all probability, some of the relationships that will be most valuable to your future are only one degree away.
You can help make this process efficient, if you have narrowed the field and thus chosen one or two industries and a few target firms you are considering for your internship. However, even if you are still in the process of evaluating your options, using these new connections to do more research can also work. Ask your colleagues to introduce you to the people they know. Do not just get an email address and follow up yourself; ask your friend to introduce you directly via email. Connections facilitated by the “connector” will be much more warmly received. Think about the difference between “Hi, I’m Joe.” and “Vanessa, have you met my friend, Joe?” Vanessa is going to be much more likely to be interested in Joe when he is introduced via a mutual friend.
Follow up with these new connections right away. When you get time on their calendar, use the time for an informational interview and be prepared to ask thoughtful, interesting questions about their work and their industry. Do some research in advance, such as reading our Consulting Career Primer, so that your questions can go well beneath the surface and make the most use of this primary research. Then, be sure to give the connection a future. At least ask the person if it would be okay for you to follow up with them again at a later date once you get into the recruiting process. You could also ask the person if you, as a future Awesome U MBA student, can do anything for them or their firm once you get to campus. Using these conversations to inform your job search is great, but what is even better is making these connections a meaningful part of your network.